After Abraham Lincoln gave speeches in March 1860, he was well regarded. However, the radical wing of the Republican Party increasingly took control. As early as January 1861, top officials were secretly meeting with Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts to coordinate plans in case the war came. Plans were made to rush militia units to Washington in an emergency.
New Hampshire fielded 31,650 enlisted men and 836 officers during the American Civil War; of these, 1,803 enlisted men and 131 officers were killed or wounded. The state provided eighteen volunteer infantry regiments (thirteen of which were raised in 1861 in response to Lincoln’s call to arms), three rifle regiments (who served in the 1st United States Sharpshooters and 2nd United States Sharpshooters), one cavalry battalion (the 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Cavalry, which was attached to the 1st New England Volunteer Cavalry), and two artillery units (the 1st New Hampshire Light Battery and 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery), as well as additional men for the Navy and Marine Corps.
Among the most celebrated of New Hampshire’s units was the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Colonel Edward Ephraim Cross. Called the “Fighting Fifth” in newspaper accounts, the regiment was considered among the Union’s best both during the war (Major General Winfield Scott called the regiment “refined gold” in 1863) and by historians afterward. The Civil War veteran and early Civil War historian William F. Fox determined that this regiment had the highest number of battle-related deaths of any Union regiment. The 20th-century historian Bruce Catton said that the Fifth New Hampshire was “one of the best combat units in the army” and that Cross was “an uncommonly talented regimental commander.”
The critical post of state Adjutant General was held in 1861-64 by elderly politician Anthony C. Colby (1792-1873) and his son Daniel E. Colby (1816-1891). They were patriotic, but were overwhelmed with the complexity of their duties. The state had no track of men who enlisted after 1861; no personnel records or information on volunteers, substitutes, or draftees. There was no inventory of weaponry and supplies. Nathaniel Head (1828-1883) took over in 1864, obtained an adequate budget and office staff, and reconstructed the missing paperwork. As a result, widows, orphans, and disabled veterans received the postwar payments they had earned.